Oman Air’s high scores in the opening Act of the 2016 Extreme Sailing Series, held last March in Muscat, boosted confidence on board the series leader, but conditions at Chinese Olympic city, Qingdao, are famously tricky and are likely to make Act 2 a tough contest where consistency will be the buzz word. The venue is regarded as one of the most challenging on the circuit so although the sailing team’s emphatic win in the Sultanate, where they won more than 50% of all the races, has boosted their confidence in the new GC32 class, they know they have their work cut out to maintain a winning streak.
Conditions in Fushan Bay will make for some ‘dramatic’ racing, says skipper Morgan Larson, with the breeze notoriously unpredictable, both in strength and direction and fog a constant trial. Achieving consistency as quickly as possible will be more important than ever. “Qingdao will throw some major challenges at us so we need to aim for consistency. These multihulls can be hard to direct and the course will be tight so in the shifty winds, it could be dramatic. We made a strong start in Muscat but we can’t rest on our laurels and with everyone still learning the boats so fast, we will definitely see some big improvements so hopefully we will stay ahead of the curve. The win in Muscat gives us the confidence to believe we can achieve that”.
“We are still learning about the GC32s and in what winds we get the most from them – if someone can get foiling in the marginal wind conditions, they will get far ahead. I saw a long term forecast that looked windy which would be great.”
Oman Sail boats have had a mixed record in Qingdao over the years reflecting the randomness of the conditions but in the new GC32s, the secret to success most likely lies in making good starts in every race, according to Oman Air bowman Nasser Al Mashari who teams up once more with Pete Greenhalgh, Ed Smyth and James Wierzbowski. “We worked hard on our starts in Muscat and it paid off,” said Al Mashari. “If you can start well, it makes life easier over the rest of the course so even though this is a very different race course in Qingdao, we are hoping for a good performance on our starts and first leg and as ever will be aiming to win.”
In Muscat, Oman Air finished on the podium in 16 of the 19 races completed and claimed 10 outright wins which gave them a lead by 33 points over Red Bull Sailing Team in second place and earned them maximum points on the overall leaderboard.
“We were very happy with our performance in Muscat, especially after the run up where we were struggling with our boat speed and trimming,” explained Greenhalgh. “Hopefully we can resume where we left off – we will be pushing hard but between Muscat and Qingdao, everyone will have studied the videos so we are expecting the other teams to have made big improvements.
“In Qingdao the wind can be full on with big shifts so it could be tricky. We can see 50 degree shifts with 20 knots of wind on one side of the course and none on the other but it’s the same for everyone and the best man always wins!”
Racing in Fushan Bay starts on Friday 29 April with a day of open water racing before the teams take to the Stadium on Saturday 30 April. The action will be streamed live online on the official event website at www.extremesailingseries.com on Sunday 1 May: 1530-1700 GMT+8 and Monday 2 May: 1515-1645 GMT+8